Towards the end of the the Second World War a British soldier encountered a German. He believed he was about to be taken prisoner. In fact, the war-weary Wehrmacht infantryman merely asked how the Glasgow Rangers were doing.
The Old Firm is the collective name for the Glasgow association football clubs Celtic and Rangers. The origin of the term is unclear but may derive from the commercial benefits of the two clubs’ rivalry. The rivalry between the two clubs deeply embeds Scottish culture and has contributed to the political, social and religious division in Scotland. As a result, the fixture is widely considered one of the biggest derbies in world football.
The two clubs are the most successful in Scotland, between them having won 99 Scottish League championships (Rangers with 54 and Celtic with 45), 68 Scottish Cups and 41 Scottish League Cups. Interruptions to their ascendancy have occurred infrequently, most recently with the challenge of the New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United in the first half of the 1980s. Since the 1985–86 season one half of the Old Firm has won the Scottish League consistently and from the 2005–06 season to the 2011–12 season both clubs finished in the top two places.
The competition between the two clubs had roots in more than just a simple sporting rivalry. It has more to do with Northern Ireland (Ulster) than Scotland and this can be seen in the flags, cultural symbols and emblems of both clubs. It was infused with a series of complex disputes, sometimes centred on religion (Catholic and Protestant), Northern Ireland-related politics (Loyalist and Republican), national identity (British or Scots Irish), and social ideology (Conservatism and Socialism). Another primary contributor to the intensity of the rivalry in the west of Scotland was that Rangers supporters are historically native Scots and Ulster Scots, and Celtic supporters are historically Irish-Scots. While the confrontation between the two sets of supporters was often labelled as ‘Sectarianism’, 'Native-Immigrant tension’ was an equally accurate catalyst for hostility between the two teams’ supports in Scotland. Rangers’ traditional support was largely from the Protestant community, while Celtic’s was largely from those of Irish Roman Catholic backgrounds. One effect is that Scottish flags are rarer than might be expected amongst both sets of supporters; Celtic fans are more likely to wave the Irish tricolour while Rangers fans tended to wave the Union Flag or the Ulster banner. Traditionally, Rangers, founded in 1872, attracted the Protestant, Scottish establishment: Celtic, founded later in 1887, represented the Catholic Irish people in Scotland. Nevertheless, this dividing line seems to be blurred today: Glasgow is increasingly homogeneous, “mixed marriages” between Protestants and Catholics have never been higher and the old certainties – the Rangers supporter voting Conservative and the Celtic supporter voting Labour – are lost.
Im writing about the history of one of the biggest derbies worldwide because today is the day the Celtics and Rangers are meeting each other again in a Cup-tie since 2012 and the atmosphere is overwhelming. Celtic Glasgow is currently in the lead with 2-0.
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